Dennis and Helen Schmidling
Dennis and Helen Schmidling of Sisters Gallery & Frame Shop were awarded the Ben Westlund Advocate for the Arts Award for their work in the community. photo by Jodi Schneider
Celebrating the arts in Sisters helps make it possible for every student in the Sisters School District to experience art as a part of their lives. Each year, hundreds of people come together to help support the arts at the My Own Two Hands Art Auction & Party.

This celebration is the premier art event that benefits Sisters Folk Festival (SFF) to continue and grow the award-winning arts education programming.

Enthusiasm and high hopes enhanced the 18th annual Art Auction and Party hosted by SFF on Saturday night at Ponderosa Forge & Ironworks. 

Artist and art donator Dennis McGregor told The Nugget, “(the) My Own Two Hands two-day event is a remarkable thing and I am so proud to be a part of (it) since its beginning. It’s continued over so many years and grown and brought in new people and new artists and has benefited so many students. And I know many of them are adults now that went through the program, and they are better people for it, and we’re all enriched by that.”

SFF Board Chair Sue Boettner added, “It is the biggest party and fundraiser of the year in town, and it’s a double-whammy because not only do we have loads of fun, but we help kids K-12 with art and music!”

The Sugar Beets from Eugene provided the eclectic soundtrack to match the variety of art up for auction, with an array of upbeat melodies, jazzy ballads and soulful folk tunes.

For over a decade Interim Executive Director Debbie Newport has volunteered as a worker for the event along with many other volunteers.

“Many of the arts programs in the Sisters public schools happen because Sisters Folk Festival partners with the School District to provide needed resources,” Newport said. “MOTH is the yearly event that helps fund many of those programs, so it’s a great opportunity for the community to demonstrate their support of the ongoing opportunities provided for every student in our schools.”

As the evening drew on, guests sampled gourmet foods catered by Tate and Tate Catering along with delicious wine and beer amid an ambiance of iron benches and anvils. People admired unique variations on the “We All Belong” theme played out with jewelry, pottery, photography, paintings and sculptures — all donated by regional artists.

Right before the live auction kicked off, Dale Largent and Brad Tisdel executed a few lively rhythmic dialogues on their drums to an invigorated crowd that was wired and ready to bid on stunning artwork.

Sisters High School students volunteered presenting art pieces during the live auction with auctioneer Jeff Mornarich.

It was Sisters High School student Sahara Lucas’ second time volunteering at the auction.

“I have so much fun, it’s an amazing event that helps the arts in our school,” she said.

Sisters resident and former board chair for Circle of Friends, Virginia Silvey added, “We are so lucky to have a community that supports our kids and supports the arts and then cultivates it. We are encouraging the kids to reach out and

stretch.”

Sisters Folk Festival Creative Director Brad Tisdel was impressed with the continued love and support shown at this yearly gathering.

He noted, “The theme this year is ‘We All Belong’ because we want to reach out and invest in one another as people, as community members, as family members, as friends and as neighbors. That’s what this is about, and this is what the art auction is about in bringing music and arts education together in our community and in our schools.”

The Theme Award winner this year was Dyrk Godby, with his beautiful leather and acrylic art piece called “Life.” The Spirit of Giving Award went to Susie Zeitner and Mary Jo Weiss, and Dennis Tower received the Award of Merit. An award of Merit also went to Jan Hasson. The Inspiration Award went to Bill Willitts for his art piece, “Transformation.” The Americana Folk Award went to Bill McDonald for his Kona Breeze uke.

And the Ben Westlund Advocate for the Arts Award was given to Sisters Gallery & Frame Shop co-owners Dennis and Helen Schmidling for taking the role of arts advocacy in the Sisters community seriously.

Helen Schmidling also won the MOTH raffle card worth $5,000 in live-auction credit and won the highest bid for the framed MOTH poster artwork by Carly Garzon Vargas.

Schmidling noted, “When I saw Carly’s image I was immediately attracted. I see it as a symbol of the healing that’s necessary in families, community, and in the country. I promote art and artists, and I see her as an important new artist in our community and I see her creative image as a celebration of what unites us.”

Saturday night’s auction at Ponderosa Forge raised over $100,000 for Sisters Folk Festival’s outreach programs.